Council looks to gain from Great Tapestry merchandising

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Scottish Borders Council set out its stall yesterday to cash in on the merchandising potential of the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Two days after plans for a visitor centre at Tweedbank for the giant art work were approved, a Tory councillor demanded that her council should secure a deal over the tapestry’s intellectual property rights and accruing royalties before the £6million construction contract is awarded in the new year.

Councillor Michelle Ballantyne (Selkirkshire) said it would be too late once building work had started to negotiate such an agreement which, she claimed, was “an essential requirement to ensure the interests and investment of the council are recognised and protected”.

She wanted a previously agreed report on how a new management trust will run the centre to “specifically cover matters relating to the intellectual property arrangements for the tapestry itself and all marketing, promotional and gift materials associated with it”.

Her motion at yesterday’s full council meeting was supported by Councillor Bill White (Ind, Galashiels) who said the issue of royalties on tapestry souvenirs and other merchandised products should be resolved before building work began. “If it is the huge success we want it to be, we should be looking at getting at least some our investment back,” said Mr White. That was a reference to SBC’s decision to borrow £3.5million to fund the bulk of the construction, incurring annual loan repayments of over £200,000 over 30 years, and to charge no rent until the centre was in profit.

But while council leader David Parker supported the need for the impending report to cover intellectual property arrangements, he said it should not be linked to the construction contract, for which expressions of interest were being sought before November 3.

“This could delay the procurement and lead to an increase in costs which is in no-one’s interest,” said Mr Parker. “We should not put pressure on our officials who are talking to the tapestry trust and preparing a report on the new management trust’s structure, membership and proposed operation.”

Mr Parker’s amendment in those terms was carried by 16 votes to 8.